A confluence of ideas is encountered in the kinetic and unusual Tirtha, featuring three South Asian luminaries: the critically acclaimed jazz pianist Vijay Iyer; and his equally accomplished trio-mates, guitarist/composer Prasanna, and tablaist Nitin Mitta. Iyer formed the band in 2007 when asked to put together a concert celebrating 60 years of Indian independence. The title (also the band's name) has significance, as "tirtha" (pronounced THEER-tha), is the Sanskrit word for "ford" or "crossing," a shallow part of a body of water that may be easily crossed, as in a pilgrimage near sacred waters.
With this mindset, the recording crosses the channels of jazz and Indian music, eschewing the hybridization of the two styles; a semblance of familiarity but also something entirely fresh. The nine tracks contain robust elements of ethnicity, thriving improvisation, and exhaustive composition; steeped in modern and old worlds. In the sweltering tempo of "Tribal Wisdom," Nitin Mitta's masterful percussion, which flows like water, is juxtaposed against Iyer's free and classical pianism, while Prasanna's guitar lexicon is informed of Jimi Hendrixian progressiveness, the classic Carnatic form of Southern India, and other world influences.
A journey of mood and sound, Iyer's title track is resplendent, a work perfected in the capabilities of musicians and their instruments to move as one, like the rise and fall of a tide. "Abundance" is not only hypnotic but emotive, and the numerology of "Gauntlet"s is impressive, as the pianist improvises over a machine-like syncopation. "Polytheism" finds the trio navigating through dangerous changes, but landing safely, whereas Prasanna's "Entropy and Time" reaches the recording's apex. Like a bridge over trouble waters, the guitarist's riff moves, at first jaggedly, but ultimately threads itself into a pastoral Indian folk-tune melody. Whatever the intent Tirtha is a mesmeric project, one of unity and harmonious communication.
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.